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Nonprofits , Restarting Hawaiʻi – June 8, 2020

Challenges Facing Nonprofits: Transform Hawai‘i Government

Seated far left, Christine Sakuda, Executive Director, Transform Hawaii Government, Hawaii Annual Code Challenge in 2020
Virtual Interview: Christine Sakuda, Executive Director, Transform Hawai‘i Government

How has your organization been able to continue its core mission(s)?

Our mission at Transform Hawai‘i Government (THG) is to advocate for an accessible, accountable and responsive government that enhances the quality of life for Hawai‘i’s citizens, whether it be through an empowered workforce, innovative technology or a more effective way of doing business. While we have been advocating this for years, our mission has taken on a deeper, more urgent meaning now. For instance, the antiquated financial management system and unemployment insurance IT systems share the same antiquated 40-plus-year-old mainframe that is in dire need of upgrade for government to deliver services effectively and transparently to the community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the shortcomings of state government technology infrastructure. It is our kuleana to not only shed light on these challenges but also explore ways we as a community can advocate for improved state government services through modernized technology and streamlined workflow.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your donations, fundraising and other cash flow?

THG is grant-funded and stable for the foreseeable future.

Have you been able to find new ways to support communities in Hawai‘i?

We continue to convene community stakeholders inside and outside of state government to discuss the challenges in government services delivery that technology and innovative processes can improve. How do we co-create a better way forward? We highlight the challenges and successes of a tech-enabled government through news media and social media to emphasize the importance of having solid IT structure in the state government.

THG was a proud sponsor of the new community innovation mentorship program created by the TRUE (Technology Readiness User Evaluation) Initiative out of the HTDC Entrepreneur’s Sandbox. Our support of the program provided opportunities for college of engineering interns to partner with technology companies and state agencies to create innovative solutions. The pilot which concluded May 18 allowed seven UH students to intern at DataHouse and work with the state Department of Agriculture Animal Quarantine Division to build an innovative tech-solution that allowed pets and their owners arriving at Honolulu Airport to move seamlessly through the previously cumbersome animal quarantine process.

What has been your organization’s experience with any level of government during this crisis?

We reach out to legislators to advocate for investments in needed technology modernization. We also work with state departments such as the Department of Accounting and General Services, the Office of Enterprise Technology Services and the State Procurement Office to support their collective efforts to build a strong central backbone of government infrastructure that is required for government to deliver services effectively into the community. Most recently, we spoke with the Department of Health Services on Med-QUEST’s online application process that is simplifying the process for our citizens to apply for Medicaid, which was featured on The Garden Island.

How do you think your organization will be different at the end of this year?

We hope to gain a vibrant coalition of community stakeholders in which we collectively build a stronger voice for modernization of government services that best serves the public.

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